Read up for great spring car-care adventure


It's spring car-care time!

So go for it: one drive through a hard-rinsing rain, then three sprays of air freshener on the front seat.

Ohhh, nooooo. Your car needs more.

Consider at least an oil and filter change, a topping off of other fluids, a front-end alignment, tire inspection and rotation, and a brake check.

Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, it helps to read up.

I always scan four repair books before trying new adventures in grease and busted knuckles. What one author skips, another emphasizes.

And my books give me specifics. They were written for my car's make, model and year.

But what about those who just want consumer smarts before heading to a mechanic? I'm disappointed in one new attempt, called "When There's No Mechanic" by Jim Gaston ($12.95, CoNation Publications). It jumps from basic stuff to gross assumptions about the reader's smarts. For example, right after an ultra-simple tale of how disc brakes work, this book says we should inspect our brakes often and "Replace or repair the parts, as needed, according to the shop manual."

The same book suggests having brakes inspected if you hear "scrapping sounds." The author meant scraping, which in the car biz is called brake squeal.

Just the other day my wife said, "The brakes keep squeaking. Is that bad?"

Most books don't say. But I've just found some paperbacks that answer questions like this in a language anyone can understand.

Consumer Reports, the folks with the monthly magazine, also publish books called "What's Wrong With My Car" ($16.95) and "Keep Your Car Running Practically Forever" ($11.95).

Both are jammed with information that makes you a smarter car owner, especially at service time. Also available is a pile of other volumes with advice keyed to various car makes.

To order, see the back of any issue of the magazine, or call 1-513-860-1178, 8 a.m.-midnight any day.

I checked one of these manuals and, sure enough, brake squeal was listed.

Turns out, brake squeal is a perfectly harmless noise, at least in our car's make and model year. And there is a fix.

But doing it would shoot a Saturday afternoon. I think this calls for a lot more reading.

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